Curly Morris

Obama and Hip Hop…the most relevant point of all

In Politics on July 31, 2008 at 2:45 am

For better or for worse and for the record, put me on the for worse side of the fence, hip hop culture has come to be the single most defining culture of Black America…in history.

There’s no getting around the hip

Obama doesn't need the hood...the hood needs him

Obama doesn't need the hood...the hood needs him

hop culture. In almost every facet of marketing and promotion, in industries ranging from women’s beauty products to the US Military; businesses, both in the U.S. and abroad, as well as any entity trying to mass communicate a single message or ideal to a large number of people will certainly, at some time or another, use hip hop and/or rap music to get that message out. Hip-hop culture and the accompanying soundtrack, rap music, like Blues music are as American as baseball, hot dogs, apple pie…you know the rest. it is also one of the few economical success stories that blacks have on large scales, wrestled from their white counterparts.

When you consider that there are gansgter rappers who are co owners of professional sports franchises, you have to say that the sustaining power of hip hop to date has seriously restructured the economic paradigm in the black community. In fact if it wasn’t for Oprah, rappers and/or someone in their professional lineage would have a lock on the black music/entertainment industry.

Firstly, I’ll give you the most obvious and significant example of how the world of hip hop has created enough space in the global economy that it’s power and demographic has  forced typically conservative corporate conglomerates to redfine their cultural borders and as such repackage their brand.

One of the most influential, provacative and pioneering rap grouops to come out the 1980’s, when hip hop culture truly began the current social ascention that the genre still enjoys today, was Long Island’s Public Enemy, a militant, pro black group that featured a no nonsense, anti establishment lead vocalist named Chuck D. On stage and on album covers, Chuck was always flanked by band members known as S1W’s (security of the First World) and resident court jester Flavor Flav.

Now if you’ve never seen Flavor Flav on television trust me on this, his appearance could be no further removed from the image that Senator Barak Obama conjures with the Senator’s sleek, clean cut, professional almost regal air. No, Flavor is on the opposite end of the spectrum in in terms of style, looks and even more importantly, ideology.

Flavor Flav

Flavor Flav

Yet Flavor Flav has become a much bigger social icon years after Public Enemy was a rap group of any major consequence.

Although I despise all reality t.v., you had to be living under a rock to have not caught wind of Flav’s huge television hit program “Flavor of Love” which aired on VH1 for three seasons running, supposedly ending this past May (yeah right). The program’s format consists of having dozens of women move into a mansion where Flav lives and having each of them pine for his affection until in the end, Flav decides that one of the women wil indeed be his true love. This past season offered episodes such as, “Dial M for Mystery Pimp Caller”, “When Flavorettes Attack” and “The Lyin’ The Witch and the Wardrobe Malfunction”.

Flav’s alter ego, (ie….his government name), William Drayton, has seven kids by three different mothers and is still unmarried. Daryton has also had his share of run ins with the law…more anti Obama.

Still, by most standards, people think that Flav is cool. That’s ditto for Ice Cube and Snoop Dogg, both of whom made their early fortunes spitting verses about gang affiliation, drug use and speaking of black women in unfalltering terms. Or as Obama puts it, “…degrading their sisters.” Flav, Ice Cube and Snoop, were at one time some of the most hated black men on the planet, (Ice Cube once did a song about white women called “Cave Bitch”), now hawk everything from cellular phones to Internet service. Gansgter rappers now occupy recurring roles in television sitcoms, police dramas, big budget Hollywood films, prime time aired commercials…everything…everywhere…has a rapper or rap music…in it…astounding.

Recently Reverend Jesse Jackson was embroiled in controversy after being caught on audio tape saying that he’d like to “cut off his (Obama’s) nuts”. Oh and that’s not gangster?”

I wonder why Jackson didn’t make any guest appearances on any of Snoops albums?  In fact revelations about Jackson’s love child in 2001 makes him appear even closer to Flav than Obama.

Here’s a question for Senator Obama to ponder;

What’s a black presidential candidate to do when the majority of the people in his race who have public forums have sold their souls for a buck and have collectively lowered the status quo for their future generations?

The answer; Stay the course brother, stay the course.

Being black is going to be a big enough burden for the Illinois Senator, being hip hop will just flat out be too much to overcome.

Years ago, the most popular black Americans came from academic institutions, religious organizations and cultural groups like the NAACP. If you saw a person of color speaking on network televsion is was safe to assume that individual was being broadcast across the airwaves to make a statement or point, more often than not about a topic that surely had the conciousness of the black American somehow embedded in it somewhere. Today, it’s Flavor Flav on the screen…representing black people…successfully.

To Ice Cube, Flav and Snoop’s credit, as artists they all were pioneers who did in fact asume the role of trailblazers in an industry that had manipulated the talents of black youth for decades. Russell Simmons, the architect behind the rags to riches model that people like Diddy and Jay Z have emulated to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars, not only introduced Madison Avenue to the sub culture that was underground urban poets, they intorduced it straight – no chaser. It was that gritty self exploration of deplorable people living in deplorable conditions that so exicted middle and upper America. White kids all across the country were fascinated that there was this violent, drug infested world which mirrored old time ganster movies existing right around the corner from some of their homes. Simmons sold them the stories, Diddy, Jay and many others followed, and everybody got paid along the way.

Simmons personified the business of hip hop

Simmons personified the business of hip hop

Today, the hip hop model that Simmons created is in fact the black American dream. Complete with drug sales, gun charges, baby mamas, 24 inch rims and dead homeboys, all components utilized to increase the marketability of the prodcut and help everyone get the sale.

But just like in fast food…somebody has to sell the burgers for Mr. Burger King to get rich.

In the hood, somebody has to buy the guns, sell the dope, impregnate the girls and shoot the homeys in order to authenticate the product.

Obama has been thrown under the bus not just by Jackson but by none other than Simmons himself who suggested last year that Obama be more concerned with fixing the conditions of the ghettos where many rappers emerge from than critiquing anyone’s lyrics.

Issues concerning whether or not Politicians should distance themselves from political contributors and supporters who come from the rap community have been drowned out by the argument that these same politicians accept contributions from oil and tobacco companies, which both have their own issues with their effect on the human condition.

When the late Eazy E attended a fund raiser for the first George Bush, he was met with ridicule and promptly demolished in a record by the aforementioned Mr. Ice Cube for dining with the enemy. I wonder, if Obama gets elected, how many time will Ice Cube get to meet him, for that matter how many times have they met already?

Well rap in itself is 100% legal. Is some of it immoral? No more so than many movies current California Governor Arnold Shwarzenegger appeared in before he decided to become a public servant. It’s just entertainment right? And plus, who’s writing the “code on immorality”?

Unfortunately in many urban communities, art imitated life for a while, then life began imitating art and the result has been successive lost generations who like Obama said “are hoping to become the next “Lil Wayne“…as if that’s necessarily a good thing.

Lil Wayne Mug Shot

Lil Wayne Mug Shot

  1. Curly-

    Nice job here. You raise some great points…I seem to remember reading how rock and roll raised these same issues in the 50’s.

  2. Good stuff, Mo. It’s Rev from Fox.

    I just saw Snoop in concert down here in Tampa and have had some interesting conversations lately about how hip hop has evolved over the past 15 years.

    Nobody could ever have imagined Cube, Dre, Snoop or any of the founders of gangsta rap being considered mainstream. Back in the day, the music was angry, inaccessible and misunderstood.

    To give you an idea of how much things have changed, my mother wanted me to burn her a Snoop cd, complete with early material. Imagine that happening ten years ago.

    I can’t fault guys like Cube for ‘selling out.’ In fact, I really don’t think he has, although I wouldn’t be caught dead seeing one of his Disney movies. Kid’s just trying to make a buck and use the system as it exists to do so.

    Sometimes fighting the power means doing it from the inside. Trust me, Cube is having the last laugh.

  3. Good read Mo. The media’s memory is short. Cuban wrote a blog on the subject recently titled :

    He basically said that negative publicity lasts 3 weeks. Positive publicity lasts 3 days.

    Not only has Snoop become a worldwide brand in spite of being accused of murder awhile back, but LSU has used him as a tool for recruitment:

  4. Curly Mo
    Obama for all of his virtues , Obama knows which side his bread is buttered. Whilst he’ll court all sides . He knows where the prescient of his votes’ll come from. And in doing so he’s obviously going to have to straddle both sides of the fence.
    That being said he can decry those artists all he wants. If not for them in large part I doubt that many African Americans would be interested at all in voting.
    They’ve seen for a large part their voices go unheard and in many respects they’ve been ignored by those same politicians who state that they identify not only with the voters at large but the youth who’ll some day have to pick up the mantle. Unfortunately by their own deeds thus far I’ve yet to see how either candidate can identify with the youths in this country let alone be it because of their ethnicity. They’re both too aloof and have little to offer by way of inducement for any youngster of an eligible voting age to aspire to vote for either.
    In either case it’s the lesser of two evils !

    tophatal …………

  5. yo this is my site visit about hiphop music in thailand.

  6. What’s up curly, just came across you site and read some of your view point. You make a very valid point in them. Keep up the positive and insightful work. Your old neighbor from the “Neck”

  7. “You see n—–s have been rappin’ since ‘fore streets. Twice the hypnosis ‘fore videos and synthesized beats….” As I sat in Takoma Station jazz club a few years back and heard an audience react to that line from a local spoken word artist, I couldn’t help but wonder if the crowd who applauded the poem really got it. Because if they had, the collective memories of their collective grandmothers would forced them to boo the guy. Maybe I didn’t get it either; I just think I did. But if you consider the resiliency of the parables by the Nazarene and the fact that he had no special effects or animation to help bolster his points; it would be easier to connect with my forthcoming point on the importance of rappers. Now, notwithstanding “If the glove don’t fit…you must acquit.”, I am a brother who abruptly stood up and watched my copy of “Up From Slavery” launch from my lap when I read Brother Booker (ummm no, not Chuckie) describe how the Black community would be captivated by preachers, posing as leaders, who were really nothing more than cats who could talk that good s—. As my Southeastern brothers like to say “You know what it izzzzzz!” It’s called game. Nat King Cole had ALL the game. Gil Scot Heron had ALL the game too, except he had a glass stem driving it. Brother Shabazz, MLK Jr. all the way to the other end of the spectrum where we find Marion Barry and Jesse Jackson…game. By the way, has Marion or Jesse ever worked a job for a living? Now THAT’s game. We are emotionally explosive people. F— that, we’re an explosive people. That’s why we started buying malt liquor, we were just peeing Pabst Blue Ribbon out. That’s why we started smoking Newports, tobacco w/o menthol just aint doin’ nothing for us. That’s why we can’t just have intercourse or make love, we gotta BLOW HER BACK OUT! Hip Hop is the final product of game as it has derived all the way from the sleeping dark continent: the home of millions who learned to tell stories to drum beats but never figured “hmmmmm maybe we need an navy and an air force to keep control of these natural resources instead of just standing around making songs about them.” You got it, the fathers of modern hip-hop. “A hundred thou’ for the bracelet. Foolish aint I? The chain will strain your eye. (bling!)” (Jay Z–Money Aint a Thang). Up until now, America’s greatest demonstration of game has been debated fiercly. Who had more game, Coltrane or Miles? X or King Jr., Shaq or Kobe? Personally, I thought the most gangsterist s— ever was Dave Chappelle snatching a baby out of a white woman’s arms, punting the baby like a football and putting his joint back in his mouth so he could give a proper field goal gesture. But since Senator Obama has become The President of the United States of America, I can tell you that Dave has been upstaged. Obama will never be as famous or popular as Michael Jackson, but damned if he aint up there. Can you imagine sitting around a spades table in a room full of smoke, loud music, and giggling women and hear a brother in the corner smoking a newport with his tie half off from a hard day at work, talkin’ ’bout he gonna be the president? But during the primaries I, for the first time, had conversations about politics with janitors. I think that would be the sole benefit of Senator/President Obama’s interaction with Ludacris and others during the Democratic primary. It’s like Lauren Hill once said “After I add all my philosophies and theories…I add a motherf—-r so you ign’ant n—–s hear me.” Obama has ALL the game. Harvard Law Review? What? What? But what got the ranks of othewise pedestrian brothers and sisters to get involved in the process in drones was the conjured images of him chilling with Luda’……smoking a newport.

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